Non-Retail (back to) School Therapy

by 2ndhandroses on 2014/08/20


Old School Days Old School Days


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Now those lyrics may normally be heard on the radio around Christmas but for millions of parents across the nation and around the world, these words convey an entirely different meaning…

…school is back in session!


And while their parents may be thrilled at the prospect of shipping off their kids for another fun-filled year, their offspring probably are not as fired up as mom and dad. Trading summer fun for memorizing locker combinations, fighting hallway crowds, not to mention mountains of homework somehow seems like a sour deal for most youngsters. I’d hazard a guess that one of the few things kids actually enjoy in preparation for the new school year is the annual ritual of school shopping.


Now when I was a kid, it was mandatory to visit the ubiquitous Buster Brown shoe store to be outfitted with decent footgear for the first day of school. This part, for me, actually wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed all the fussing of the lady helping me try on my new lace-ups, and certainly secretly thrilled in the smell of the leather. Buying a pretty new dress also was something to look forward to as my mother and I visited our local department store.


And so it was that on the first day back to school, I’d be resplendent in my red gingham dress, matching red socks, and spiffy new footwear shining in the sun.


Jazzy Pink Kicks Jazzy Pink Kicks


Fast forward a few years and now I’m in the dubious position of being a prematurely graying (yikes!) mom to a 16-year-old style expert who somehow replaced my will-wear-anything toddler seemingly in the blink of an eye. Now I find myself in the bittersweet position of rejoicing in his burgeoning adulthood while feeling the sting as his fashion choices make larger and larger dents in the family budget. Gone are the days, unfortunately, of buckling him up in generic overalls and T-shirts. Nowadays, it’s all about the labels.


You Paid How Much for That? You Paid How Much for That?


As I mention in my book, Second Hand Roses: The Junktiquing Road, this whole buying-retail thing now, has really become farcical for me. With my years of thrifting experience clouding my judgment on what constitutes a normal price for things, I take great umbrage to the thought of parting with more than $10 for a pair of jeans! Poor Julius.


For example, a visit to Sears a while back found me on more than one occasion laughing out loud at the prices displayed on the racks.


“Avoiding the sidelong glances of the saleslady stacking T-shirts nearby, I muffled an indignant snort or two as I scoffed at the temerity of the store to price a simple hoodie at well over $50. Are they serious, I thought to myself, looking over the cheap plastic zipper, destined for breakage within a month or two. The thing looked no more substantial than an overgrown sweatshirt; the only seeming justification of such an outrageous price being the tiny label stitched in the neckline. Did they expect the wearer to turn the jacket inside-out, so as to impress anyone with sharp enough eyes to see the tag?”


Nonetheless, my son has his heart set these days on certain brands and while I could afford that $50 hoodie, quite frankly it’s more often than not that I have returned from a thrifting run at one of my local thrift store haunts, with a bag full of clothes that cost far less than that stupid $50 hoodie! And these are not junky, nasty, your-grandpa’s clothes-type fashion, albeit nowadays that can be considered quite cool, if you listen to a certain artist. These are outfits he can wear with pride, labels and all, and unless he broadcasts to his buddies where they came from, it’s on a need-to-know basis as to how much actually was spent.


A Tisket, A Tasket, save money in your basket! A Tisket, A Tasket, save money in your basket!



Each year, I see this trend continuing, easily documented on the web.

In the Reuters article, “ Survey Finds 86% of Back-to-School Shoppers Frustrated by Budget Constraints,” the largest online resale shop for women and children’s clothing released their annual survey of back-to -school shopping. It stated that almost 90% of shoppers found that due to financial and time constraints, it was becoming increasingly challenging to get good bargains for their kids for school. According to the article,

“Style and savings are motivating Americans including back-to-school shoppers, to by secondhand clothes. Over eight in 10 (81%) Americans would buy a secondhand item for themselves because it’s a great way to save money (68%), and is a smart way to shop if they are on a strict budget (45%).”



Retail, schmetail Retail, schmetail


In the Examiner article, “6 Ways Parents Make the Most of Thrift Store Shopping for Back to School,” author Nicole Ramage gives some excellent advice on how to score the best bargains at thrift stores for back to school. One example is,


“Take advantage of tag sales. In most thrift stores, there is a different color tag sale going on each day. Take advantage of the discount that you receive if you purchase items of that colored tag. Often times you can get things up to 50% the sale price.”

So until this economy turns around (hopefully soon!) why don’t you join some of your neighbors at your local thrift store? You may be amazed at what you find.

Sound the Bell, school is back in session! Sound the Bell, school is back in session!


 “Cannot people realize how large an income is thrift?” – Cicero


Photos courtesy Jen Trimman, Martin Boose, Andrea Kratzenberg, Roger Kirby, and Chrstine Rondeau of


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Corinne Edwards 2014/08/21 at 5:59 am

Kowing you, Dawn, I bet you can find good labels in thrift stores.

You are an expert. And I have seen some of the things you have found.

The trick, as I have heard from you, is to shop those stores in rich areas. They donate quality.

donna 2014/08/27 at 10:44 am

Shhhhhhhhhhh! The thrift stores are getting so crowed!
Maybe we should be telling folks buying retail is really Cool! Then maybe the thrift stores will have less of a crowd.
Your friend and neighbor,

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